1 - Get An Education
Education earns the number one position because it is truly the most
important thing you can do. I don't just mean attending college or a trade
school, but learning skills that will help you save around the house.
Take a night school class at your local high school or community college
and learn budgeting, computer skills, cooking, car maintenance, or anything
that will help you to become more efficient and frugal in your home. Take
advantage of online tutorials, books and friends who may be able to help you
learn anything from tax preparation to plumbing to cutting hair.
The more skills you have and the more you know, the more you save. Begin
now by making a list of all the things you have paid people to do over the last
year. Make another list of skills your friends and family possess. Make a
third list of the skills you could teach someone else.
2 - Don't Spend Your Change
When we were first engaged, we began saving our change each night in a
jar. At the end of the month, I would take the change to the store and buy
spices, pantry basics and cleaning supplies. When we were married and moved
into our first apartment, the cupboards were stocked by pocket change. We
could never have afforded as poor college students to purchase these basics all
You will be amazed how much money you have at the end of the month with
such little effort. You will also be amazed that you don't miss the money. We
saved as much as $40.00 a month. If you have older children, have them
participate too and put the money aside for a special item for the family or
for a family vacation.
3 - Pay with Cash
Everything except your home or education should be paid for with cash
whenever possible. Cash means currency, your ATM card, or your checkbook. It
takes discipline, but it can work with a plan and teamwork. You will save
thousands in interest charges.
4 - Purchase Used Cars Instead of New
Driving a new car is a great thrill, but may be foolish for many of us.
Unless you are in a high tax bracket and your accountant says that leasing or
buying new vehicles offers you essential deductions, you will be better off to
purchase a good, low mileage used car, and save the difference that others pay
There are many websites dedicated to helping consumers choose a good used
car. Plan to have a mechanic check out the car if you are buying it from an
individual or unfamiliar dealer. Retired fleet or rental cars can be a good
buy, because usually they are still under warranty and have been well
maintained. Auctions are a possibility, but it will pay to do your homework
before buying a car there because auctions are not for the novice, or the
impulsive, or the undisciplined.
If you purchase from a private party, get a copy of the car's service
record and do an online search on the car's VIN number (there are services that
provide a detailed car history) to make sure you know if it was a lemon or a
Fifty years ago, a car was considered fully used up when it rolled a
hundred thousand miles on the odometer. Today, many finely engineered cars are
traded off or sold by their first owners within a year or two of being new, and
can be bought for two-thirds their original value. With 80% of their useful
life left in them, a late model used car allows you to buy a better quality car
than you could afford to buy new. Treat it kindly, and it will take care of you
and your budget for many years.
5 - Put Down As Much As You Can
When you are purchase a large ticket item like a car or home with borrowed
money, put down the largest deposit you can afford. Don't be swayed by the
sales person or real estate agent who reminds you that you only need to put
$xxx down and you can take the rest of your cash and use it on something else.
You will pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more over the life of your loan
in interest charges when you make a small or no down payment.
6 - Eliminate Extra Charges
Examine your insurance policy, retirement funds, bank accounts, and so on,
and eliminate any extras you do not need. You may be paying for benefits and
services you will never need or use.
7 - Determine the Real Cost of Purchases
If cable, for example, is $30 per month, think $360 per year. What could
you do with $360 What about the newspaper If you read it, by all means keep
it, but if you don't, consider buying only the weekend edition.
8 - Look for Matching Funds
Take advantage of matching funds through your employer, if this is
offered. This not only applies to retirement accounts but large employers may
also provide matching funds for continuing education. Be sure to ask.
9 - Take Advantage of Scholarships
Investigate scholarship opportunities for yourself or your child. Make sure
you file a FAFSA (free application for federal student aid) form. This can be
obtained from any high school counseling office. This form must be completed
for all financial aid and almost all scholarships.
Ask your high school for a list of organizations that offer scholarships to
graduating seniors. Some will also provide scholarships to those returning to
school after a lengthy absence. Check on the internet for other opportunities,
but never pay for a list. Go to a good bookstore where you can find a book
with a list of national scholarships.
Use these same strategies to find scholarships for your children. Begin
the hunt during their sophomore year in high school as there are many
scholarships available to high school juniors, and too often, the list of
applicants is very short because other parents and students are not as
proactive as you are.
10 - Use Your Deductible
Take the highest deductible possible when having taxes deducted from your
paycheck if you normally receive a refund. Consult your tax advisor on how to
11 - Buy Savings Bonds
If you have young children or grandchildren, buy them savings bonds. They
are relatively inexpensive to purchase and are better than a saving account
because they are tax free when cashed in to be used for post-high school
12 - Cancel Private Mortgage Insurance
Once you owe less than 80% of your home's value your lender no longer
requires mortgage insurance. Keep a close eye on when you reach this level and
cancel the insurance. Usually it is a poor value.
13 - Shop the Sales
I never pay full price for anything. Be patient. Everything goes on sale
eventually. There are times of the year when certain items are always on
sale. Everyone knows eggs are cheapest the week before Easter. Storage boxes
are on sale in January, when everyone is cleaning up from the holidays. Summer
clothes are on sale about two weeks into the summer season. Keep a journal of
the sales at your local stores and see what their pattern is. Don't be afraid
to ask when an item will go on sale. See Meridian article The Self Reliant
14 - Make Friends Where You Shop
If you have a favorite store, develop a friendship with a clerk and ask him
to let you know when items are being marked down or there is a sale scheduled.
Some stores have a regular day of the week when they mark down items.
15 - Purchase Gifts Year Round
Take advantage of end-of-season sales and purchase items for Christmas in
July. I recently purchased workout clothes for 70% off. They are appropriate
to wear year round and will be appreciated Christmas morning but they cost me
much less than if I had waited to purchase them in November. The same is true
of home decor items, linens, photo albums, and year round clothing such as
belts and jeans.
Other added advantages of this approach are that you will spread out your
purchases, thus preserving your budget and allowing you to avoid all the
hassles of the crowds in November. Consider doing this for weddings, shower
gifts, birthdays, anniversaries, and baby gifts.
16 - Shop after a Holiday
If you won't be seeing family or friends until after a holiday such as
Christmas, purchase last minute gifts after the holiday. For example, you
could make up a food gift basket with candies wrapped in Holiday wrapping,
pasta shaped like Christmas trees and an ornament or two, all for 50% to 75%
17 - Re-Gift
OK, so Miss Manners may say this is over the line. I am not suggesting that
you give someone a gift you rejected. On occasion, you will receive duplicate
gifts at a shower or for a special occasion that can't be returned. If you
have a new, unused item that you love, but don't need, I see no problem with re-
gifting it to someone who needs or who will really appreciate it.
18 - Make Your Gifts
The only limit to what you can accomplish is the limit of your
imagination. I made dress-up costumes for my grandchildren last Christmas from
remnants of fabrics I had around the house and a couple of old curtains. One
of the curtains was given to me by a friend who discovered what I was doing.
The grandchildren loved the costumes, and we had lots of fun watching them
dress up and play.
Think about giving your favorite dessert, a dinner, home made rolls, a
sketch, a poem, a personalized gift basket - the list goes on and on.
19 - Pool Your Gift Money
Think group gift. Whether it be for a wedding, shower, or for a family
member's birthday, why not pool your money and get a nicer and often more
needed gift than you could afford on your own.
20 - Make Wrapping Paper
It is crazy that we spend so much on greeting cards and gift-wrap as we do.
Make your own! For gift-wrap, you can purchase rolls of newsprint at paper
stores and decorate it using stickers, stencils, stamps, or just splatter
paint. Kids will think it's great fun. The same is true of bags. Purchase
plain white bags and decorate.
For a real country look, purchase a roll of brown paper in the paint
section of your home improvement store. Tie the gift with a gingham bow or
even twine, add a homemade card and you are done. This is even cheaper than
buying it at the dollar store.
21 - Make Gift Cards
Find a local paper supply store that sells blank cards. They will also
have cards ready to print that are designed for thank you notes. These are the
perfect size for gift enclosures. A box of 100 cards will usually cost less
than $10.00. The same number of gift enclosures would cost $35.00 or more.
22 - Utilized Your No More Than a Dollar Store
There are so many of these stores now. You can get really great buys on
everything from gifts to cleaning supplies. This is a great resource when
planning a party or compiling gift baskets. It is also a great place to take
children to pick out gifts for friends, grandparents or others or even to shop
for a reward for themselves.
You will need to check these stores often, because their inventory varies.
Don't forget to ask the clerks if they know when an item you are searching for
may be scheduled to arrive.
23 - Reinvent an Item
Think of a new use for an item you already have. You could turn a basket
upside-down and use it as a plant stand. Clean and paint your picnic table and
bring it inside to use as a kitchen table. We have an old Arts & Craft style
glass door mounted against the wall as a dramatic headboard. What can you
24 - Plant Fruit Trees
You can pick these up from nurseries who supply farmers with their orchard
trees, for much less than at retail. Most trees will not bear fruit for four or
five years, so plant now as an investment in the future. The fruit you harvest
can be eaten, preserved, frozen, or sold at a farmers market or from a card
table on your front lawn. Citrus fruits can be eaten fresh, squeezed for juice
or the juice can be frozen in ice cube trays and then stored in freezer bags
for use later.
If you live in a warm climate plant citrus trees for winter harvest, and
fruit and nut trees for summer and fall harvests. Be sure to plant the fruits
your family likes. Grapefruit trees will be of little use if your family does
not like grapefruit.
Be sure to check at the nursery, because some trees need two varieties
planted together in order to pollinate. Peek over the fence and see what trees
the neighbors have, or talk to them about planting some that will pollinate
with your trees. The biggest mistake most people make is to plant too many
trees of the same variety.
25 - Plant a Garden
Like the fruit from your trees, you can preserve or freeze your garden
harvest as well as eating it fresh. You can also earn extra money to
supplement your grocery budget. Everyone loves fresh vegetables, and in many
areas, they are difficult to find. During World War II many families dug up
their yards to plant victory gardens to feed themselves and their neighbors.
If you don't have a yard you can plant many vegetables in pots and planter
boxes placed around a front door or on a balcony. Many good books can give you
directions and help you learn the tricks.
26 - Make Your Own Mulch
Composting will improve the yields you get from your vegetable gardens and
fruit trees. It will also save you money on fertilizers, and make your
flowering plants even more beautiful. There are many online sources with
details on how to make compost from leaves, yard clippings, kitchen scraps and
27 - Glean
If you cannot plant your own trees or gardens, keep your eyes open for
orchards or fields that are being harvested. Often farmers will allow you to
glean the fruits and vegetables that are left after the commercial harvest is
over. Ask permission; they will usually say, Yes, go ahead. Also, keep your
eyes open for neighbors who have trees that have fruit going unpicked. Many
times you can pick the fruit for them in exchange for half the fruit. This is
not only good for you but can be a huge help to people who are elderly or
handicapped, or just too busy, and cannot do this for themselves.
28 - Trade Garden Stock
Divide plants and trade with friends. It is really amazing how often
friends need to thin their garden plants or houseplants. Learn how to root
cuttings or divide root balls and trade with friends. Soon you will be
operating your own little nursery.
29 - Barter
Make a list of the skills and talents that you would be willing to share
with others in exchange for talents you don't have. You may be a great baker
and can make holiday pies and breads in exchange for haircuts for your
Do you know a family who has children your children enjoy playing with
Rotate babysitting on Friday nights. Can you tutor math or teach piano lessons
in exchange for auto repairs Sit down and brainstorm all the skills you and
your family have to share. When you have finished, start a second list of all
the people you know who have skills you need. You may be surprised how willing
others are to trade with you, thus saving money for both of you.
30 - Dumpster Dive
Got your attention with this one, didn't I OK, so I'm not suggesting you
hang out behind the supermarket or a popular restaurant, but look for locations
where someone is discarding things that may have value, but are no longer
needed. I have seen beautifully appointed retail cabinets, perfectly good
stuff, literally ripped out and hauled away.
Watch for contractors who are remodeling and have torn out moldings,
cabinets, fences, doors, or fireplaces. All these salvage items are
potentially useful to someone - maybe even to you and your project. Our
basement was finished with new carpet that was literally free - a friend who
lays carpet pulled it from a new home where the buyer wanted a different color,
and it only cost us the price of our friend's time to lay it down.
Another friend found two French doors being discarded. She took them home,
attached a piano hinge, applied paint and fabric, and made a divider to hide
her treadmill when it wasn't being used. It looks like a designer item.
31 - Salvage Scrap at Construction Sites
This is an especially good resource when a large development is being
built. They will always have a pile of scraps they are going to haul to the
dump. The more you take the less they have to discard. Talk to the foreman or
contractor. With luck, you can find great scrap lumber for making small
shelves, step stools, doll cradles, window boxes or anything else that requires
shorter pieces. If nothing else, it provides kindling to heat your home or for
32 - Use Coupons
This is a tried but true method of saving money on food, cleaning supplies,
medications and merchandise. There are many sources of coupons including your
local newspaper, magazines, box tops and the internet. Save coupons only for
items you actually use. You may form a co-op with other families and share
coupons for items they may be in need of but for which you have no use. A good
example of this would be diapers. Not every family need them, but when you do
they are an enormous expense. I know of one Relief Society where they share
coupons by passing around a basket with coupons that are not going to be used
by the donor and others can take what they can use.
33 - Rebates
Rebates are available on many large ticket purchases, and require the
discipline to fill out paperwork, make copies of receipts, and mail them off
before the expiration date. Establish the discipline to fill them out and mail
them within 24 hours of a big purchase, or risk seeing your savings evaporate
with your good intentions. We're talking real money here.
34 - Sign Up For Mailing Lists
Many of your local and chain retail stores have mailing lists. Most use
these lists to mail circulars on store specials and discount coupons. Many of
these are not available to the public, and you need to be on the mailing list
to take advantage of the savings. We have a local furniture store that holds
midnight madness sales twice a year. They have great savings at these events,
but you must have the invitation they have mailed you to get in the door.
35 - Take Your Lunch to Work
This is so much healthier and can save you hundreds of dollars over a
year's time. You don't need to tale peanut butter and jelly, although you
could. Create your own lunch by starting with a plastic container and adding
leftovers or a salad or nachos, a variety of cheeses meats and crackers; the
possibilities are endless and taste so much better than the same old sandwich
from the neighborhood deli - or worse yet, fast food. If you save just $2.00 a
day times how many days, that's mucho dinero in a year! Save it and eat
36 - Send Lunch to School
When I was a kid, the school cafeteria served a hot meal, but the kids with
lunch boxes had better food. It's still true. It is much more healthy for your
child to take a lunch than to purchase one, and also much less expensive. There
are many fun ideas for lunches as simple as using cookie cutters to make fun
sandwiches, to making your own lunchables.
I have been teaching After School Recreation classes for the past three
years - teaching latchkey kids to cook. I have discovered the kids will eat
lots of things they thought they never would, if they are presented correctly.
Their favorites are wraps. Simply pack a tortilla and ingredients in a sandwich
bag. Think salad in a tortilla and pack shredded carrots, lettuce, tomatoes,
cheese, meat, pickles, olives and of course some kind of dressing. Let them
assemble it at school and they will be the envy of their friends. This is great
for kids in high school and college as well.
37 - Drink Water
Make it a practice to drink water instead of juice or milk, at least one
meal a day. Water is much better for you and will cut calories as well as save
38 - Order Water
When you eat out, order water instead of soft drinks. You could purchase a
whole liter of soda, enough for the whole family, for the price of one drink
ordered at a restaurant. If you eliminate ordering just one drink a week, you
could save over $50.00 a year. Sodas are where fast food restaurants make their
profit, not food. If you currently order a soft drink every day, you could save
$300.00 a year.
39 - Keep a Food Stash in the Car
Have you ever had the kids say, I'm so... hungry, as you pick them up
from school You still have errands to run and soccer practice, so you find a
drive-thru and buy snacks.
Don't do it. Get a small cooler and stock it with snacks. Choose items
that won't melt, and the next time the kiddies complain, tell then to check the
snacks. If you know you will be gone from home for a longer period, add an ice
pack to the chest and add drinks and fresh fruit or cheese sticks and you are
ready to go. If you spend just $3.00 a week buying fast food snacks, you could
save more than $100.00 a year by making your own.
40 - Recycle Water Bottles
Wash your used water bottles and rinse them well. Fill them with water
about half full and freeze them. As you head out the door, fill the bottle the
rest of the way with fresh water and you will have a cold drink that will last
a few hours. When you have leftover juice or lemonade, fill an empty water
bottle and freeze or refrigerate it. Use these in lunches as a cheaper
alternative to bottled drinks.
This also works well for milk. I do chocolate milk for long trips; it's
more nutritious than sweetened juices and still fun. You may have heard rumors
that reusing water bottles is dangerous. This is one of those urban legends,
which grew out of a master's thesis that was not subjected to peer review or
scientific study. It has been refuted by the bottled water industry.
41 - Eat at Home
It is so much cheaper to eat at home instead of eating out. If you love
hamburgers, get a good recipe for gourmet hamburgers, invest in a small grill
and cook them at home. You will be amazed at how much your family loves them,
and they can all have them exactly the way they want them.
If you think you are too busy to cook, try making some meals ahead and
freezing them. If you think you can't cook, get a basic cookbook, or check one
out of the library and start practicing. If you eat out less and save $15.00
per week, you can save $780.00 a year!
42 - Eat Out for Lunch, Not Dinner
If there is a special occasion and you want to celebrate, then do your
restaurant dining at lunch time. Lunch menus often include most of the same
meal choices as the dinner menus, but at a smaller price. This is an
especially good tip for vacations. Eat your large meal at lunchtime and have
sandwiches or pizza for dinner.
43 - Learn How to Properly Store Foods
There are many items that can be purchased in season or grown in your
garden that can be canned for future use. If you have never canned, ask around
and find someone who can teach you. They will probably know someone whose
family has grown who will be happy to share their extra canning jars.
Vegetables, some fruits, nuts, even eggs and milk can be safely frozen. There
are many good books that will teach you to preserve and store food.
44 - Freeze Meals
Compile a number of recipes that will freeze well. These are great for the
nights you are too tired to cook or have other problems arise during the day.
It will help you avoid the temptation to run to the restaurant or for fast
food. Take a Saturday or weeknight evening and spend a few hours making
casseroles or other main dishes to freeze.
Purchase several ovenmicrowave-proof glass casserole dishes and use
these. This will save lots of money over buying disposable ones. Make sure
they are the same size and they will stack well in your freezer. Be sure to
cover the food with plastic wrap before you cover with foil and then remove the
plastic wrap before cooking. Label each dish on the foil with the cooking
directions. This can be lots of fun to do as a family and it will teach your
children or grandchildren culinary skills
45 - Take Food
Whether you are planning a road trip to Grandma's or a trip to Disneyland,
plan to take food with you. When our children were young, we would take food
for two meals a day with us when we vacationed. This was the only time I
purchased sugary cereals. We would eat fruit and cereal in the hotel room for
breakfast and have cheese and crackers or sandwiches for another meal. Allow
for one treat a day to be purchased at the beach or theme park and it won't
seem like a sacrifice to eat meals out of the cooler.
46 - Buy in Bulk
If you feel you can't use 12 rolls of paper towels, find a friend who can
share the items with you. If you purchase large packages of cereals or
ingredients like flour, divide it into plastic containers with lids. Be
careful and compare the price per ounce, because large quantity items are not
always the best buys. Meat, for example, is usually not a bargain at a
warehouse type store. There are many catalogs and other sources to purchase
party supplies, paper goods and even linens in bulk. Ask friends, and check
online for sources.
47 - Get Your Food Storage
Purchase extra canned fruits, vegetables, sauces, soups, and other
nonperishables when you shop each week. Don't forget to purchase cleaning
supplies, toiletries, and other non-food items you buy on a regular basis. As
your pantry gets more and more full of items you routinely use, you will begin
to save 25%-50% on your grocery budget. Once you have a supply you need only
buy items when they go on sale.
If you do this on a regular basis, you will always be feeding your family
and handling household needs at last year's prices. To begin the process, try
placing your change at the end of every day in a special jar. At the end of
the week purchase items that will store well and are on sale, with that money.
Do this in addition to your normal purchasing and do not use your storage
items, but continue buying as though they were not there. Don't forget your
pets; their food and supplies go on sale, too.
48 - Stretch Your Food
When buying frosted corn flakes, mix them with a box of unfrosted corn
flakes to reduce the sugar as well as the price. Do the same thing with
chocolate milk by adding half white milk; stretch orange juice by combining
with less expensive lemonade.
49 - Shop at the Farmers' Market
Farmers' markets are a great place to purchase fresh fruits and
vegetables. The best time to go is late in the day. Often when booths are
closing you can make deals, especially if you are buying large quantities, so
take orders from the neighbors or plan to can or freeze the extras.
50 - Buy Store Brands
If you are in doubt about the quality of a store brand, buy just one and
try it. Most store brands are packaged by the major food companies and are of
good to high quality. Some of the store brands are actually better than the
name brands. But if you really hate the store brand, by all means buy what you
love. Spoiling yourself on a few little luxuries is the spice of life, and the
reward for being frugal - isn't it
A Friend is God's way of showing us we don't have to walk alone.